DraftKings players have had weeks to tinker with their Week 1 NFL lineups, an atypical experience for daily fantasy participants. Rather than toying around with rosters, gamers now have to get serious.
While everyone can procrastinate until Sunday morning, Thursday night’s opening tilt between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers will feature plenty of fantasy goodness. Even someone uninterested in utilizing anyone from the first game should plan ahead, instilling good habits for the following 16 weeks.
With football lurking around the corner, here’s the latest batch of interesting names to play or fade in Week 1. For the rising talents, let’s focus on some extreme bargains.
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo Bills ($5,000) vs. Indianapolis Colts
An unexpected decision has created a tremendous DFS opportunity. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer broke the news last week about the Buffalo Bills choosing Tyrod Taylor as their Week 1 starting quarterback over EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel:
Taylor is an unproven passer who has completed 19 of 35 career attempts for 199 yards. Will he gracefully dart bombs right into Sammy Watkins’ chest? Probably not.
He can, however, deliver fantasy value with his legs. The 26-year-old showed off his speed with 61 yards in two preseason games, including a 20-yard touchdown run against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Fast quarterbacks aren’t locks to become fantasy monsters. Anyone who played Johnny Manziel last year is nodding in agreement. But at the quarterback-minimum $5,000, Taylor doesn’t need to decimate the Indianapolis Colts on the ground or through air to make it worth gamers’ while.
FantasyPros projects him to contribute 14.7 DraftKings points, which would look something like 150 passing yards, 40 rushing yards, an interception and a rushing score. That comes down to $340 per point, the second-highest projected value behind Matt Ryan.
Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots ($3,000) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Trusting New England running backs is a surefire path to insanity. Expected to be their Week 1 starter while LeGarrette Blount serves a one-game suspension, Jonas Gray is instead looking for a job after the team officially cut him over the weekend.
But let’s not try to guess whom Bill Belichick will delegate carries to on Thursday night. Instead, take notice of Dion Lewis, who could pay off as a cheap flier at $3,000. Not only did the 24-year-old make the roster, but he’s in line for playing time, per the Boston Globe‘s Ben Volin:
Lewis has not played in the NFL since 2012, when he tallied 69 yards on 13 carries for the Philadelphia Eagles. While he’s far from a lock to receive significant handoffs, he’s in line to assume a third-down role that worked wonders for Shane Vereen. Before jumping to the New York Giants, he caught 99 passes on 146 targets over two years.
Remember, DraftKings operates under point-per-reception (PPR) scoring. That means gamers should heed NFL.com’s Matt Harmon’s advice:
At the minimum cost, Lewis could pull his weight and more with a 10-point outing.
Stevie Johnson, WR, San Diego Chargers ($3,700) vs. Detroit Lions
Once upon a time, Stevie Johnson rattled off three straight 1,000-yard seasons for the Bills. After a down 2013, he received only 50 targets for the San Francisco 49ers last season.
Neither squad torched defenses through the air, but now the 29-year-old wide receiver gets an opportunity to revive his career with the San Diego Chargers. Having never played alongside a quarterback of Philip Rivers’ caliber, Johnson gushed over his new situation to the San Diego Union-Tribune‘s Kevin Acee.
“It’s so easy,” Johnson said. “That’s the kind of stuff that makes you want to come back the next day and work and see if we can do it again and again. I want to keep showing him I can keep making those plays.”
Replacing Eddie Royal, who recorded 778 yards on 91 targets, Johnson will factor into San Diego’s plans much more than he did in San Francisco, where he eventually faded into obscurity. As a starter in last year’s No. 10 passing offense, he costs only $3,700, less than Marqise Lee, James Jones and Justin Hunter. He’s a great value play for any contest.
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington ($5,500) vs. Miami Dolphins
In a league ruled by running back committees, Alfred Morris has amassed 876 carries in three years with Washington. He’s boring but safe and steady, hardly the worst words to describe a fantasy rusher.
On the other hand, his attempts, rushing yards and yards per carry have dipped every year. Adding to his concerns, rookie Matt Jones became the toast of the town this preseason, averaging 7.0 yards per exhibition carry.
He didn’t experience such problems in 2013, though, gaining 4.5 yards per run with Cousins under center. Facing two tough run defenses in the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals skewed 2014’s data.
But now for another concerning chart. Chris Raybon of 4for4.com shared research from Rotoviz chronicling Morris’ need for a strong matchup where Washington can establish the run:
Few teams look worse than Washington this year. The Miami Dolphins are not one of them, especially after adding Ndamukong Suh to stymie the run. Include his inability to add points from the receiving game, and there’s little reason to touch Morris this weekend.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles ($3,600) at Atlanta Falcons
It happened again. Everyone fell in love with Zach Ertz, dreaming of what could be rather than realizing the more realistic truth in front of them.
The tight end tallied 702 receiving yards last season, but gamers remember a 15-catch, 115-yard Week 16 outburst that likely swung several seasonal fantasy championship matchups. However, he also failed to submit more than five receptions in any other game while logging 603 snaps to Brent Celek‘s 827, according to Pro Football Focus.
In the fantasy universe, Ertz is the better choice. The Philadelphia Eagles, however, care about Celek‘s superior blocking skills. Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Celek will continue to start and will likely keep seeing the larger role.
Making matters worse, Ertz‘ Week 1 status remains up in the air. According to ESPN’s Britt McHenry, he remains uncertain about his availability against the Atlanta Falcons while recovering from groin surgery:
Put the breaks on the breakout train. Even if active, an inconsistent, battered backup isn’t worth starting.
Note: Scoring an pricing info courtesy of DraftKings.com.
DraftKings is giving away over $10 million in Week 1 of the NFL season. Use this knowledge to help you win some of that cash. The biggest first-place prize ever at $2 million will be awarded. Play now for FREE at DraftKings.com.
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